- Vegetables: greens (leafy), greens (lettuces)
- Crop Production: food processing, greenhouses
Greens harvesting is done at scale when grown in the field during the summer season with specialized mechanized harvesters. The winter greenhouse growing systems that use soil filled trays don’t have a mechanized harvester commercially available that fits the scale of these operations. There is a true need in the agriculture community for an automated belt feed tray harvesting system that can remove the painfully slow process of hand harvesting microgreens and winter grown salad greens. The few tools that are on the market for growers are hand held and too small and often use a band saw technique that does not work well for small greens and tears the greens cut point resulting in more cosmetic damage, poorer shelf life, and results in a longer time for regrowth. The purpose of this grant is to use our engineering background to develop and demonstrate a salad greens automated harvesting bench top tool that could cleanly harvest greens at least 10x faster than by hand and with greater precision for improved regrowth and a higher quality product. This tool, after demonstration, would be commercialized and made available to the agriculture production community.
Design and demonstrate a tray-based automated greens harvesting system that is at least 10x faster than hand harvesting resulting in winter greens production being more economically viable.
We believe this is a very innovative project that is working to solve a real world agriculture technical challenge with innovative technical design. The fact that the marketplace is lacking a tool with this capability reinforces the need as the face of agriculture expands to include more greenhouse and non-field production of food.
A few of the design attributes targeted include:
- Belt feed of tray with adjustable belt speed
- Easy and adjustable cutting height
- Easily adjustable for various tray widths
- Harvested greens storage with easy access
- Made with all food safe materials
- Easily cleanable after harvest
- Plan to use a novel cutting system
- Incorporate operator safety into the design
- Operating speed 10x faster than hand harvest with stretch goal of 20x
- Commercially manufacturable here in the Midwest
- Designed for small-mid volume farmer affordability